I want to begin my first article with Into The 99 not by explaining ins and outs of a game you are probably familiar with, but by discussing some of its nuances and the ways in which we can navigate them.
Let’s look at some ways to rethink our 99 and how I approach deckbuilding in commander. I’ll explain how becoming a better deck builder can in turn make you a better magic player. Like many of you, when I was introduced to this game, deckbuilding was something that was very intimidating to me and I know I didn’t have a good understanding of how to properly build a Magic the Gathering deck. The decks I used to make were clunky, slow and most of the time just wouldn’t get the job done. Through those mistakes I’ve learned how to make the proper changes and create optimal commander decks. This brings me to my first point: Trial and Error.
Back to the Drawing Board:
Making mistakes is almost as big a part of the game as the cards are themselves. We try to avoid them, but they’re simply going to happen. We make misplays during the game just as often as we make mistakes building our decks and its’ not a bad thing. Learning from these mistakes is what makes us better deck builders. In commander they can be a number of things ranging from improper land count, too high of a mana curve or even the concept of the deck might be spread out too thin. Trying to make too many things happen at once can drag the whole deck down into the ground. I’m not going to sit here and say there’s a set-in stone number of lands you should play in your commander deck, because there isn’t. Part of the reason why this game we play is so amazing is because it has so many unique possibilities and combinations, making each deck you build its own special thing. What works for me might not necessarily work for the next magic player and that’s where the trial and error and playtesting come into play. We sometimes only find these mistakes in our decks once we get into the game; a card that doesn’t synergize well with the rest of the deck or at times doesn't work at all. In order to avoid these, we can take a few proactive steps like gold-fishing or solitaire style testing where we can possibly catch things. You can even try sending your lists to your friends for them to check and give feedback on what you’re doing.
Fast forward to now and deckbuilding might just be my favorite part of the game: the seemingly endless possibilities it lends to your creativity. Even though I get as much joy from building decks as I do from playing them, I find people still aren’t willing to take risks. Many of the customers I deal with on a daily basis often will end up coming in to the store with very cookie cutter lists straight from EDHREC and don’t put much thought into what is going into the deck. Quite often they end up wondering why it isn’t functioning properly, why they aren’t winning games and will end up returning and asking for suggestions and advice on what to do better. Most of the time, it stems from a misunderstanding of how the pieces of the deck function with each other.
Overuse of Online Resources:
To preface this, I don’t have a problem with people using EDHREC. Its overuse is more of a problem. I like the platform and I find it can provide some very good building blocks for your decks. I will use it to help get through any roadblocks I have when looking to build a deck, especially when its’ a new archetype that I’m unfamiliar with. This brings us to a larger debate in Magic: Netdecking. Vs. Homebrew. Now I could probably spend an entire article on this alone, but that’s not what we’re here for. I’m not for or against netdecking. It has a place in the game. However, in Commander, there is something to be said for netdecking turning into a lack of creativity as well as for some turning into a misunderstanding of the deck itself. By not choosing the cards your putting into your own deck and simply copying someone else’s list, you run the risk of not knowing how the deck will play and will be at a disadvantage. Now this is primarily going to be meant for new players getting into the game and it is hard to not use the resources at hand, due to a lack of knowledge of the cards that exist for them to build their decks from. Use these resources to get started but continue to challenge yourself as a deck builder. Set yourself goals and ask for help when you feel it is needed and try not to overuse online resources.
Lastly the main thing I’d like for people to take away is not to get discouraged from deckbuilding. it is a skill that you will learn and develop overtime. Have fun with it and constantly challenge yourself as you build new brews. Set yourself restrictions that force you to rethink how you build your decks and continue to have fun with the game.
Continue the conversation on my social media outlets! I am always looking for new ways to
enjoy the game and share it with others.